From tower to pasture

Terug naar Walden is “about downfall – the highs and the subsequent lows,” says Van den Broeck. “The protagonist decides to take his revenge on capitalism after some very bad news from his doctor. In one simple sale, he initiates an economic crisis that causes financial institutions to crumble. He decides to leave the Marsh Tower in New York, guided by a voice that leads him down a turbulent road to his final destination – a pasture in the Antwerp Kempen.”

Like any good road book, the central character makes a number of remarkable acquaintances, says Van den Broeck, who was born and bred in the Kempen, including “a man who sells 9/11 souvenirs, two retired interrogators from Guantanamo and a 12- year-old girl, who ultimately helps him realise the error of his ways.” Another of the book’s characters is Frederik van Eeden, a real-life influential Dutch author who became one of the key figures in the Dutch literary movement against Romanticism towards the end of the 19th century. He was also famous for creating Walden, an agricultural colony near Bussum in the northwest of the Netherlands. Besides being a reference to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, this colony also played a vital role in the evolution of socialism in the Low Countries and is the symbol for a simple, community-oriented lifestyle. “I just try to give voice to all the horrors that we have to deal with through a story with a very unique atmosphere,” says Van den Broeck.

Considering the state of the current economy, Terug naar Walden couldn’t wish for a better release date. Although it wasn’t the author’s intention to base the novel in this reality, he says it’s a natural outcome of his “artistic antennae. I often sense things a lot sooner than other people.”

Although Van den Broeck frequently writes about the Belgian royal dynasty, they are completely left out of the picture this time, except for one brief reference to the late King Boudewijn. His normally strong autobiographical references are also in short supply. “This time, I’ve had to put